of The American Society for Information Science

Vol. 26, No. 4

April/May 2000

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The Nature of Information

by Edward M. Housman

Verse 1

Information is the substance that passes between us when I tell you something.
Information persists for a time, then fades back into chaos.
Information cannot move without making noise.
Laughter is information dancing.
Information occupies space.
And time.
It takes energy to move information.
Information is necessary for life, for any organized activity.
Information is form without substance, substance without form.  Both.
Information, like light, has weight; a gigabyte weighs less than a fingerprint.

Verse 2

Information involves the displacement of form through space and time.
An insight is information crashing into information.
Information implies structure.
Information can be in motion or frozen in time.
Information is crystalline order in a cloud of chaos.
Information is the satisfying, perhaps disturbing, answer to a question.

Verse 3

The weight of a stone, and the information needed to describe it, are equal.
Information is a substance, a form; like light, both wave and particle.
Information has a solid state; it freezes into rigidity (storage).
Information has a liquid state; it flows (communications).
Like matter, it slowly crumbles (entropy).
Information is sculpture, an idea encrypted into nature, a fact.
Somewhere information moves; the cosmos rumbles, roars out the fact.
In their egocentricity, humans think that information is for us alone.  Not so.

Verse 4

There are two kinds of information: the physical and the biological.
The cosmos would be immobile darkness without them.
One is a sortie of bits; aircraft in-formation.
One is a star screaming, "I am here!"One requires no observer.
Two is essential to life, its very fiber.
Two is a cat doping out its prey, a flower opening to the sun.
Information makes all objects in the universe, and teenagers, jitter.
It is the great mystical life force that drives us through wisdom, to death.

Verse 5

The same information can be expressed in different ways: a voice, a letter.
Unlike matter, information can be in many places at once.
A handshake is information.  A nod.  A look.  A sigh.
Information is formed by rubbing two bit-streams together.
Information dwells in bit-streams, on paper, on stone, in a gesture.
Information craves a medium, a shard of tumbling time-space to dwell upon.

Verse 6

Information is easily confused with knowledge, certainty, wisdom, and data.
The meaning of a picture, a scene, a sensation, is information.
Information glows in a sea of randomness.
An organization is not physical; it's people bound by information.
An organization, any organized activity, is impossible without information.

Verse 7

Noise and randomness are information's constant companions
Poetry is a tangle of bits on a pedestal, in the mind.
Poetry is information fireworks.
A poem is a hard, sparkling diamond of information.
Poetry is compressed insight, unstable and likely to explode.
 

Edward M. Housman is Senior Information Systems Engineer at The MITRE Corporation. He can be reached by e-mail at emh@mitre.org


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